Why is America so fat?
Everyone seems to have an opinion on this: “we don’t exercise enough”, “our portions are too large”, “it’s the fast food companies”, “we eat too much processed foods”, “everyone lacks self-control”.
All these points have some validity.
But the REAL reason so many Americans struggle with weight-gain and obesity isn’t a one-dimensional or even two-dimensional issue.
It’s usually a combination of obvious, and not-so-obvious causal factors that build up over time.
In today’s post, I hope to shed light on the top 10 lesser-known causes of weight-gain and obesity, plus provide solutions for each, so we may better understand the REAL reason so many struggle with weight gain.
The Top 10 Reasons We’re Fat…and What to do About It
#1 Reason We’re Fat: We’ve been fed a fake story about calories
Most of us have been taught the First Law of Thermodynamics: calories in + calories out = weight gain, weight loss, or weight maintenance.
But, it’s not that simple.
You see, a calorie is not just a calorie. It never has been, it never will be. Let me explain…
A calorie from sugar, for example, comes with a rise in insulin which can cause the body to store fat due to hormone fluctuations.
Whereas a calorie from a healthy fat, like avocado or coconut, can be quickly used up by the body as fuel and help support healthy hormonal balance and nutrient assimilation.
As I’ve said before, though the law of thermodynamics does have some bearing on the weight equation: you are not a furnace!
So, while there is some truth to the calories-in-calories-out principle, it is not an entirely accurate way to design a diet, weight-loss program, or lifestyle.
The Solution: Instead of counting calories, focus on eating nutrient-dense foods low in sugars and carbohydrates, with moderate amounts of healthy fats and proteins.
#2 Reason We’re Fat: We no longer feast and fast
The human body was brilliantly designed to thrive in times of feasting and times of famine (there’s just no getting around it), and this design has sustained us for millennia.
These days, with the exception of the very poor, few Americans experience times of famine. Plus, except for those who hold specific religious beliefs and the very health conscious, no one fasts/abstains from food anymore either.
It’s just eat eat eat 7 days a week.
Now, I’m not suggesting we all start fasting on nothing but water once a month (as this would be counter-productive to most people’s health these days), but the truth is our bodies were not designed to be constantly digesting so much high-calorie, low-nutrient food.
And, after a while it starts to deplete key functions like detoxification, insulin function, and enzyme production—all of which affect your ability to digest and break down nutrients and thus, maintain a healthy weight.
The Solution: Consider a detox-cleanse once a year (like the MWC Detox Cleanse), avoid eating nutrient-devoid high-calorie processed foods, and try to stop eating after 7PM or 8PM as this gives your body a much-needed break from digesting food so it can focus on restoration and repair.
#3 Reason We’re Fat: Our bodies are bogged down with toxins
The amount of chemicals toxins we are exposed to every day is absolutely nuts.
For example, a much reported on survey conducted by consumer groups such as: The Environmental Working Group, The Breast Cancer Fund, and Clean Water Action showed the average woman applies 168 chemicals to her body each day via personal care products like makeup and body lotion. Men apply an average of 68 of these chemicals (1).
And, according to the same survey: “One of every five adults are potentially exposed every day to all of the top seven carcinogenic impurities common to personal care product ingredients.”
…this is INSANE, people!
This figure doesn’t even factor into account the amount of other toxins we’re exposed to through our food, air pollution, water, clothing, and a slew of other sources.
To put it bluntly: we live in a toxic soup, and it takes a toll on our health; specifically our organs of detoxification, like the liver, which also plays a huge role in burning fat and hormone synthesis.
The Solution: Get smart about avoiding the toxins you can, through:
- Choosing non-toxic personal care products (including makeup, soaps, shampoos, conditioners, baby care products, hair dye, etc.)
- Buying organic/naturally grown foods
- Opting for natural cleaning products
- Using an air purifier in your home
- Opting for natural pest control and lawn care solutions
- Avoiding flame retardants on clothing, mattresses, etc.
AND, help your liver out by eating a nutrient-dense diet and partaking in that Detox Cleanse we mentioned above.
For help figuring out which products are the least toxic, check out The Environmental Working Group’s FREE guides to cosmetics, cleaning products, fruits and Veggies (The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen), sunscreens, baby products, meats, etc. at: www.ewg.org.
#4 Reason We’re Fat: We’re eating the wrong fats
As mentioned above, not all calories are created equal, and that goes for fat-based calories too.
So what are the “right” fats?
Ideally, fats that contain medium-chain fatty acids, which the body can rapidly use as fuel, AND fats containing anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
What are the “wrong” fats?
Processed vegetable oils which contain pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids (not to mention most of them are rancid which creates a hot mess of free radical damage to your cells).
The solution: consume healthy fats such as:
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil (the real stuff)
- Avocado oil
- Organic butter (preferably from pasture-raised cows)
- Sustainably-sourced palm oil
Avoid commercially-processed vegetable oils such as:
- Canola oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Soy oil
- Corn oil
- Safflower oil
- Sunflower oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Peanut oil
- Fake butter spreads
- Fake olive oil (cheap stuff is often cut with less-quality oils)
If you’re concerned about consuming too much saturated fat (like the ones mentioned above), check out my previous article: “Is Coconut Oil Healthy After All?
#5 Reason We’re Fat: Our gut health is sub-optimal
Believe it or not, the health and diversity of your gut bacteria have a HUGE bearing on your susceptibility to weight-gain and obesity.
Studies conducted with morbidly obese people, showed that certain strains of bacteria more efficiently extracted calories and nutrition out of food than others (2)(3).
Another recent study published last month in the International Journal of Obesity found subjects who altered their ratio of the gut bacteria: Prevotella and Bacteroides, by consuming a specific high-fiber diet over 6 months, lost significantly more weight than those subjects who did not(4).
So how do you know if you have the right gut bacteria?
The solution: Though there are tests you can take to analyze your gut bacteria, a better plan would be to work on building up that good gut bacteria through diet and lifestyle changes such as:
- Eating a diet rich in probiotic foods such as cultured vegetables, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, beet kvass, etc.
- Eating enough fiber and prebiotic-rich foods (prebiotics act as a food supply for probiotics) such as: leeks, onions, asparagus, the occasional banana, chicory, and Jerusalem artichokes.
- Stop over-sanitizing everything! Plenty of research has shown you need some germs to help diversify your microbiome immunity.
- Get outdoors and play in the dirt. Fresh air and soil are teeming with beneficial microbes that will help diversify your gut.
Plus, there are 5 MORE reasons we’re fat…
…and we’ll share them in next month’s article (sorry, I ran out of room).
Until then, remember it is the small changes we make every day that add up to big results. So, if you’re struggling with weight-gain or obesity, try focusing on just one or two of these solutions and start making small changes today.
And if you need help, we’re here for you either in-person at our Austin, TX clinic, or via virtual appointment.
Until next month, stay well!
2: Sonnenburg JL, Xu J, Leip DD, Chen C-H, Westover BP, Weatherford J, Buhler JD, Gordon JI. Glycan foraging in vivo by an intestine-adapted bacterial symbiont. Science, Mar. 25, 2005.
3: Matej Bajzer1 & Randy J. Seeley. Physiology: Obesity and gut flora. Nature 444, 1009-1010 (21 December 2006)
4: Hjorth, M F, et al. “Pre-Treatment Microbial Prevotella-to-Bacteroides Ratio, Determines Body Fat Loss Success during a 6-Month Randomized Controlled Diet Intervention.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 8 Sept. 2017, www.nature.com/ijo/journal/vaop/naam/abs/ijo2017220a.html?foxtrotcallback=true.